- (Photo: Alliance Defense Fund)
A Manhattan pastor is going into day 26 of a 40-day fast over a ban set to go into effect this Sunday evicting churches meeting in New York City public schools.
Pastor Bill Devlin, senior minister at Manhattan Bible Church began the water-only fast at midnight Jan. 17, and says he will continue his hunger strike until Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYC School Chancellor Dennis Wolcott reverse their decision on evicting houses of worship from education buildings.
For the Manhattan-based pastor the real purpose of this fast is "to bring attention to the hard-heartedness of our mayor and chancellor. My fast is to ask God to soften the hearts of Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Wolcott. The churches that these men are making homeless are the salt and light of the poor communities in which they serve."
He told The Christian Post that he has already dropped 40 pounds, and he feels like he is getting his energy from the Lord. "I believe that when God knows we're fasting, we're not just knocking on the door of heaven, we're banging on the door of heaven," he said.
The biblical book of Esther is providing Devlin with inspiration. When the Jewish people were faced with extermination, Queen Esther called for a fast. In Scripture, fasting is called when there is imminent danger.
His fast is even garnering followers. He has had a few people tell him they were going to join him. "Fasting is the missing element in evangelical Christianity in 2012 – we're more focused on pot luck suppers and eating," he noted.
The fast, he said, is also meant to show that "we care about out brother and sister pastor friends that are getting evicted."
The eviction of churches in New York City has made international news and has been called "religious intolerance" and discrimination, with the city and courts striking down equal access to those who help the poor communities the most. Over 60 churches are expected to be affected by the ban.
The debate over the ban started back in December when a small church, the Bronx Household of Faith, which was using a public school to hold Sunday services, lost a 16-year legal battle with the city of New York which had been trying to evict the church.
The church was previously protected by an injunction that allowed houses of worship to continue using spaces in the city, but last June a federal appeals court decided to uphold the city's policy and remove the injunction.
While a bill passed in the N.Y. Senate Monday to reverse the city school district's ban on services at its schools, the fight isn't over yet.
The bill still has to pass in the House where its future is less certain, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has added his own complications to the issue. He refused to hear the Senate bill on Monday, saying he was going to work on his own version.
Devlin is a registered nurse, a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary, and a former Wall Street head-hunter for Guardian Life. He has been married for 32 years and is the father of five grown children and two grandchildren.